is an excellent designer, his layout design has an unique style and very popular on the web. He starts his online design course and manages a creative blog. I ordered his weekly email before, his passion inspired me deeply.

Nguyen Le is an excellent designer, his layout design has an unique style and very popular on the web. He starts his online design course and manages a creative blog. I ordered his weekly email before, his passion inspired me deeply.

UISDC: What is the growth of your design career, and what makes you move from a brand designer to a freelance designer?

Nguyen Le:So I have been designing professionally for the last 12 years. I started my career as a junior digital designer/developer out of university and my career has grown a lot over the years. I’ve seen a lot of different development and design changes across that time.

To break it down I worked for different digital agencies for the first 8 years of my career. And eventually worked as a Creative Director who was lucky enough to do work for brands such as Nintendo, Nissan, Target, Adidas and more. I worked with a very good team and a learnt a lot during that time. But eventually it became a bit too easy, I was in more meetings than I was designing. I felt like I wasn’t being challenged and growing anymore. The passion was slowly fading and so I knew I needed a change. So in my last years as an agency Creative Director I decided to resign and pursue a new adventure. I write about it in more detail here.

And that’s when I become a freelance designer. The plan was actually to move from Melbourne, Australia to New York City. But I was getting a lot of work as a freelancer so I decided to continue freelancing in Melbourne and rather relocate to another city, and just travel in our free time.

And that’s how I became a freelance designer. And I’ve been doing it for the last 4 years. I love the freedom that it brings me. And the ability to work on interesting projects.

UISDC:How do you communicate effectively with your customers when you get the case at beginning?

Nguyen Le:Well I have 2 different types of customers 1 is direct clients and the other is my design students. (People who take my classes)

1.For my direct clients, it’s really about getting as much information as I can from them. And establish trust and a collaborative relationship early on. Most of my communication is via email, skype and slack — the key is to set expectations for the client every step of the way and deliver beyond that promise. If you say you will deliver something on Thursday. Try to deliver it on Wednesday or try to deliver with more than you promised. This is key for building good customer/client relationships in the beginning. When you write an email — Set an agenda. Make it clear what you need from the client. Make it clear what your next steps are. That’s my advice.

2. For my customers who are students, I have an email sequence that is automated that students go through. It first welcomes them — then educates, then follows up to see how I can further help them and make sure that they get a lot of value out of the course. We also have a private slack community where students can ask me questions and where the community shares ideas/links etc. And to learn together. It’s a simple principle — help as much as you can.

UISDC: Would you like to explain the design process of your work in detail?

Nguyen Le:Sure.

Let’s take a look at my Bakers Guild project.


One of the most important things when designing a layout is to think about Hierarchy. What should users who are using your product/website/app be drawn to first? second and third? And so on. When we consider proper hierarchy we can make the experience a lot clearer for users and create designs that are a lot more thoughtful and balanced. If you look at the Bakers Guild page the hierarchy is large feature text first — “Our passion….” along with the image. Then you make your way across the page to our story. By having clear Hierarchy we can guide the user based on the size and weighting of elements in our interface.

Line Height & Grids

Next is line height, which is the vertical space between body text. So there is an invisible grid that lays out my design. There is a vertical grid and a horizontal grid which is 12 columns. My baseline grid is 14px — and the line height on my body text is 24px with the text size at 16px. By having line height and grids we can have more consistency and harmony in the way we lay out information. That way everything lines up properly.


Tracking is just the horizontal space between letters. Your can track tightly or loosely.

Small caps

Small caps are a specific character set in a typeface that are like capital letter but have been redrawn to be smaller and to match x height of the lowercase text.

Drop Caps

Below you can see drop caps in action. It’s the big M. It is a decorative flourish to draw the user into the body text, and to make the typography interesting.


Ligatures are when two specific characters like “ff” and “fl” join and have their own individual characters.


Kerning is the space between 2 specific characters. Particularly when you have text that is really large. The spacing between characters become a lot more noticable. We can manually adjust this using kerning. It is important to use it for logos and large feature text.

Glyphs & Alternates

Glyphs & Alternates are special characters that exist in a typeface. Some typefaces have alternates like a different “A” or a particular letter that you can use instead of the standard letters. They are great for when you are trying to get interesting visual variations in your design. These alternates are mainly used for headlines.

Proper Characters

Proper characters are specific things like dashes and hyphens and real quotes vs. faux quotes. Paying attention to these small elements means everything we create from a typographic standpoint is more considered.

If you want more details you can check out my free typography workshop video where I step through some of these concepts live in a design project. You can check it out at:

UISDC: We know that you have been writing weekly-email for a long time, how do you stay motivated and share effective experience efficiently?

Nguyen Le:I think it’s about building habits and keeping yourself accountable. Plus the wonderful feedback I get from the design community and my audience helps me to stay motivated and to keep writing and share more of what I know. My weekly email helps build my influence in the design space and where I can share things that can help others out there.

UISDC: We have seen you prefer minimalist style in your web design. How do you handle “complicated” clients? In China, many clients think some space in web is a unacceptable element, they want full of things in a page,what would you do in this situation?

Having been designing for quite a while — I am capable of designing in a variety of “styles” so to speak. The look and result of my work is because that is the best visual approach to the solution that I am solving. So it all comes down to the goals of a project and that leads to a particular visual result. Start with the problem first and then worry about the “style” secondly. Because what you see is a purposeful curation of my work to show work in a particular approach, and solves a particular problem. Because those are the clients and type of projects that I want to attract. You shouldn’t force minimalism just to make it look good or trendy. Do it because it fits the project needs. So clients who approach me know what to expect.

As for how to deal with complicated clients. I think it comes down to education and understanding what our clients value. If you can show your clients that their customers prefer Design A vs. Design B which is more cluttered etc. You can show them the value of space in design by showing them how it can improve their business outcomes but also show them how it can help them with things they care about. Like revenue, more customers etc. Jack Ma focuses a great deal on user satisfaction for his success with Alibaba in the early days. If you can tie this to your design decisions, it will make it easier for clients to understand. In short you need to speak in a way that our clients can understand the value of our work.

UISDC: What is your typical day?

Nguyen Le:I usually watch my two children who are 6 months and 2 and a half years old from — 8am — 10:30am. Then I start my work — and because I freelance I don’t need to commute anywhere and just work from home.

Then I will juggle various bits of work for the day. Designing, writing, emailing, thinking, reading and my wife and kids get home 5:30pm. If the weather is good I’ll also walk our dog. From there we have dinner as a family. And then watch a bit of TV and spend time together. I’ll also have 1 hour of reading everyday — usually at night.

And then I put our eldest on to sleep. And that’s a typical day.

UISDC:Can you share with us how you can effectively improve your design capabilities? Is there any good book or efficiency tool worth recommending?

Nguyen Le:There’s a great quote by IRA glass which I think he delivers much more eloquently than I can. “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

The secret is really just to keep working. Take a look at the work the people admire are doing and try to recreate it, improve it, make it your own, and glass that gap. As for books there are a lot of good design books out there. I did a list here a while back.

UISDC:We are very interested in your office environment. Can you show us your work station and the items that bring you happiness? (Can you open for us to take a picture of your workplace?)

Nguyen Le:My family brings me happiness more than any item haha. But apart from that I really value my books — or rather the knowledge that these books have given me. I try to go through at least 12 books a year and have learnt a lot reading. So I treasure what these books mean. As for happiness I love designing, the act of designing makes me extremely happy as I am focused and creating. It’s a very lucky thing that we get to do for a living — to make things and essentially to play.

My office inspires me to work and it is clean overall.

I also work around different areas of my house as well.

Thanks so much for your time.

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